With ancient woodlands, windswept heathlands, and freshwater lakes hemmed in by grassy sea cliffs and sandy beaches, Brownsea Island manages to cram a startling variety of scenery into its 500-acre landmass. The largely uninhabited island, which lies just off the coast of Poole, is run by the National Trust and its main attraction is the Brownsea Island Nature Reserve, a wildlife haven centered around a glittering lagoon.
Visitors to the island can enjoy a series of walks and nature trails, looking out for wildlife such as the rare red squirrel, wild peacocks, and birds such as avocets, black-tailed godwits and wildfowl. Additional highlights include the beachfront Brownsea Castle, which dates back to the 16th century; the Brownsea Open-Air Theatre, which hosts performances throughout the summer months; and electric buggy tours, that traverse all the island’s most scenic viewpoints.
Regular ferries run from Poole Harbour or Sandbanks to the island throughout the summer months, but the best way to visit the island is on a boat tour, offering spectacular views of Old Harry Rocks, Studland Bay and Swanage Bay along the way.
Brownsea Island is located just off the south coast of Poole and is open to the public from March to October (and sometimes on winter weekends), daily from 10am-5pm. Ferry boats run hourly from Poole Quay and Sandbanks to the island, taking around 20 minutes, and entrance to the island is £6.50.